German Shepherds and Labrador Retrievers aren't the only dog breeds worthy of work.
When most people think of working dogs, they envision German Shepherds, Belgian Malinois, or maybe even German Short Haired Pointers. The breed farthest from their minds is the pit bull. Pit bulls conjure images of illegal dog fighting rings and brutal attacks, but that's all about to change.
Pit bulls have been shackled with a bad reputation, and pit bull-like breeds battle breed discrimination on a daily basis. They're victims of serious misconceptions that put thousands of friendly, behaviorally-sound dogs in shelters and on death row every year. But thanks to organizations like The Animal Farm Foundation, pit bulls are making a prominent appearance in the world of the working K9.
These six working dogs are only a few examples of working pit bulls defying stereotypes.
K9 Ruby was a stray living on the streets of Austin, Texas when she was taken in by the Austin Animal Center. From there, she was rescued by Austin Pets Alive!, a no-kill animal shelter intent on saving animals most at risk of euthanasia.
Ruby spent 220 days with Austin Pets Alive! until Universal K9 accepted her as an applicant for their narcotics detection training program. Ruby flew through her training showing off her impressive sniffer and love for action. Today, she's an official K9 cop with the Chattahoochee Hills Police Department in Georgia.
K9 Libby was only days away from being put down when a foster family took her in. She was part of an unwanted litter of pit bull puppies, and all her brothers and sisters were euthanized while waiting to find forever homes.
Lucky Libby drew attention because of her infectious personality and willingness to learn, and she was soon sent into training. She graduated as a bonafide drug detection dog and found a forever home, family, and purpose at the Montgomery County Constable's Narcotics team in Texas.
Libby's been on the job for over a year now, and last week, she and her handler became recipients of the "2016 First Responders Award of Excellence."
Service Dog Jericho
When Matthew Smith was 22, he was in a motorcycle accident that left him bound to a wheelchair. He adjusted to his disability, but his life changed for the better because of a service dog named Jericho. Jericho quickly exceeded Matthew's expectations as a service dog, and the pair formed a powerful bond. Wherever Matthew goes, Jericho is right by his side helping with physical movements as well as easing anxiety.
But Jericho isn't your average service dog. He's a big, hulking pit bull that draws attention everywhere he goes. Animal Farm Foundation trained Jericho using the same methods used with Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, and every other traditional service dog breed. He's become an irreplaceable part of Matthew's life, and he's showing everyone that breed doesn't matter.
When Kiah was found wandering through a grocery store parking lot, she had a serious head wound and little chance of surviving the shelter. But that all changed when Animal Farm Foundation recognized her confidence and infectious energy.
She was pulled out of the shelter, and her mettle was tested during an intense 16-week training course that few canines complete. But Kiah proved her worth, and when she graduated in November, she became New York's first-ever working pit bull. Director of Operations for Universal K9, Brad Croft, describes K9 Kiah as, "one of the top three dogs I've ever placed."
The story of how K9 Shaka earned her position with an Oregon Police Department is full of what her handler calls "lucky coincidences."
A pit bull advocate found Shaka in a New York pound. It didn't take long to recognize the dog's impressive drive and work ethic, and the Washington State Patrol Academy (K9 Drug Detection Training Unit) became interested in her skills.
After 18 weeks of rigorous training, Shaka was adopted into the Washougal PD. She stood out within the department as a skilled K9, but staffing issues eventually forced the department to downsize their K9 unit. But Shaka wasn't out of work for long. The Milwaukie Police Department jumped at the chance to add this already successful K9 to their team.
Therapy Dog Gemma
When Abbe Moen found Gemma at a shelter in Indiana, the dog was already scheduled to be euthanized. She was thought to be "just another pit bull" taking up space with little chance at adoption. But Abbe knew she was more. She brought Gemma to her home and quickly identified the dog as what she really is, a people-lover and all-round comfort to be around.
Now five years old, Gemma has been given the opportunity to bring joy to people on a professional level. She's a therapy dog well-known for her calm demeanor and comforting personality. When residents of St. Mary of the Woods Senior Community see Gemma prancing down the hall, they don't see a vicious pit bull poised to attack, they see their daily dose of comfort and companionship.
As bully breeds across the continent face extreme discrimination, these working pit bulls are successfully defying stereotypes. They're teaching the world that it's the deed that really matters, and not the breed.
Universal K9's Brad Croft told Animal Farm Foundation:
"Any dog that has the drive, confidence, and desire to work can do it! Breed does not dictate a dog's ability to work."